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The life of a freelance writer

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The life of a freelance writer

It’s usually pretty good… but you have to hustle. Like,every day almost.

There’s a lot of romance to the idea of being a freelance writer, making your money from words that you’ve written in a sun-dappled office with plenty of plants, retro music blasting from Spotify and endless cups of tea/coffee/Fanta piling up next to your keyboard. Always learning something new, exploring some new field and researching interesting things.

And look, it’s like that in parts. Sometimes you’ll spend a whole day chipping away at a stack of articles, emailing them through to editors and hearing back that they’re totally perfect and amazing and you should send through your invoice straightaway so you can get paid.

But…

Come on, you had to know there was a “but” coming, didn’tyou? Because it’s not all like that. In fact, a thuge amount of your time as a freelancerwriter is spent doing a whole bunch of other stuff that isn’t writing.

Like trying to make “thuge” happen, and hanging out in cafés pretending to write while you actually muck around with your laptop settings and order another cappuccino and – why not? – a banana bread. And sitting there, frowning at your screen about whether that three-part “thuge” joke works or not. Ugh, I’ll leave it in. The editor can decide.

Oh, and all the endless admin and work that surrounds the actual writing.

All the endless admin

When you work for someone else, they withhold tax for youand pay you a certain amount every fortnight or so. When you’re freelancing,you’re running your own business – which is great and sounds very important,but means you have to keep track of all that stuff yourself.

Liiiiiike, you have to remember to send out your invoices.You also have to chase those invoices when they haven’t been paid. Then chasethem again when your first chase-up email is ignored. You have to set aside acertain amount of money each time to pay tax at the end of the financial year.

Once you’re up and running, you also have to manage yourschedule, balance deadlines, wrangle interviews and generally keep a bunch ofplates spinning forever and ever, because if you stop there’ll be some otherfreelancer waiting to thieve all your clients.

Ohhh, and the emails. You’re pretty much on call all the time, because you don’t want to miss out on work.

Plus you have to be a marketer

Generally speaking, you’re always on the hunt for new work.Even when you’re loaded up with plenty to do, you are constantly aware thatthere’ll be a quiet period coming up soon and you need to make sure you’ve gotsome options.

There are a few different ways writers do this – on the moststraightforward level, this means sending pitches for articles to editors andhoping they say yes. Sometimes you’ll get editors asking for article ideas ongiven topics, which can be great… or can mean you send them 25 different anglesthat you’ve spent half a day coming up with, and get the nod to write two ofthem.

But beyond pitching, you’ll also have to make sure peopledon’t forget about you. These days that means being active on social media,constantly messaging people with money (without being too transparent/annoying)and sharing your work everywhere you can so everyone knows how great, talentedand versatile you are.

As I often say, if you want to be a freelance writer, it really, really helps to actually like people. It also helps to be a bit of a show-off.

And in the end…

You’re the writer, not the editor. Seeing your name in print(or online) is massively exciting and so is getting paid to do this job. But editorsget final say over what happens to your work once you hand it over. Theyrewrite headlines, hack out your favourite bits and can sometimes totallychange what you did to suit them. Every freelance writer has had the experienceof absolutely fuming over their stuff being butchered by some idiot editor theystill have to be nice to because they haven’t been paid yet (and want to keepworking).

Yeahhhh, but for all my whinging here, I wouldn’t swap itfor anything else. My Pop worked in a coalmine, so I especially wouldn’t whingearound him. That would be a thuge mistake.

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